Vandals hit Tory leader campaign office over landfill search decision

Frustration and anger with Heather Stefanson appear to be boiling over for some, as her constituency office was vandalized Monday evening after she touted not helping with a landfill search for two Indigenous women as a reason to vote for the Manitoba PCs.

On Tuesday morning, the constituency office for Stefanson on Grant Avenue in Winnipeg was covered in small hand prints and messages painted on the windows as well as on signs to “search the landfill.” A sign with Stefanson’s face on the corner of the building was also covered in hand prints.

A protest in front of the building on Monday evening temporarily blocked traffic near the corner of Grant Avenue and Kenaston Boulevard.

The protest was sparked by a Tory ad on the weekend that highlighted a promise by Stefanson not to waver on her decision that a PC government will not help with a landfill search for the remains of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran.

In the ad an image of Stefanson sits next to a promise to “stand firm” and it also includes the quote from Stefanson, “For health and safety reasons, the answer on the landfill dig just has to be no.”

Stefanson announced on July 6 that the province would not offer assistance to search the Prairie Green Landfill, saying she came to the decision because of the results of a feasibility study.

That has angered many including families and advocates who for months have been calling for a search of the Prairie Green Landill for the remains of the two women believed to have been killed and dumped there. Jeremy Skibicki is facing first-degree murder charges in the deaths of four women, including Harris and Myran.

On Tuesday morning, WPS spokesperson Dani McKinnon confirmed police are investigating the incident.

And while the decision not to assist with a landfill search has angered some, it has perplexed University of Manitoba Professor of Political Science Réal Carrière, who said he believes moves that could alienate Indigenous voters are more likely to hurt than help the PCs in the upcoming provincial election.

“Coming out and predominantly saying no to the landfill search before an election, I think it’s a big risk and a big gamble,” Carrière said.” In Manitoba, it’s the largest per capita population of Indigenous people in the country so it’s not insignificant, and it still looks like this could be a close election, so it becomes that much more important.”

Carrière added that if the PCs are now touting the decision not to search the landfill as a deliberate attempt to court more conservative or far-right voters, he also doubts that would be a winning strategy for the party.

“I feel like the more far-right vote is already something that would lean to a Conservative party, so I don’t think that’s who they need to be going after for votes if it’s a close election,” he said.

“You’re trying to go after those who are undecided, so if it’s an appeal to the base then that doesn’t seem to me like a sound strategy.”

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun